"The Early bird..." he said to himself, lighting his cigarette - the flame giving the last light of night as dawn came to
The rain salty diesel choked air gave Investigator MacGruber a sense of calm as he walked by the docks of Empire City's
wharf district. A quick visit to Neyu-Yun Shiu's restaurant had given him his morning coffee and some exotic but cheap
mess of beans that had a name he'd not try to pronounce but was strangely healthy and invigorating. He paused to
smoke, well away from her establishment. She hated smoking, thus limiting her business with her dislike of this harmless
modern vice. She had said smoking reminded her of some Emperor or Grand Imperial something she had been a courtesan
for in her youth and his constant smoking of things far more powerful than tobacco had brought their ancient nation
"Where IS he?" he half said to himself, looking for Seaman Jonas. Not a suspect, just a few questions. He was on the
ship that brought the "Cold Gem" into the city, he might have met some of the people trying to buy the thing. Ask some
questions, a meal or some booze explained on expenses. If there was some problem, well he could hold his own on the
land with a sailor...his boxing days.
"Les go puncture tires..." he heard a young boy's voice.
"No, Jack, ah already faced th' judge. Said he'd call me an Adult if I see him again. An ah gots a Dad who paddles
good, Judge said he'd force adopt YOU to be mah brother so mah Dad woul'd spank you good..."
"I'd like regular meals from your Mom, but how 'bout we throw some rocks through that kooky China Lady and wacky
tiny food joint? Breakem windows? No one likes them Chinese and open enough if we are chased we'll be in a crowd of
normal people and claim they were tryin' to use us for meat coz not enough Cats in the Wharf...?"
His fellows laughed and he continued. "An even if we are caught, identified and charges brought that same Judge has
almost openly displayed his pointy hat robe of the Patriot Defender league where they openly shot them back when he
was not much older'n us... He'd say we were improving ourselves and our society!"
Suddenly all the kids stopped their laughing plotting of sowing of wild oats, having all caught the eye of MacGruber
upon him hearing their plans of Malice against one of his favorite haunts. He said nothing, made no move to them, but
he was a huge hulking bear of a man. His hot stare at them froze them in their tracks, they knew he had overheard
all that they said and planned and did NOT approve. That he would take action if they hurled even an insult at the
Asian woman's establishement when he might have otherwise ignored their vandalous choices of entertainment.
In this "Modern Age" Pulp is a style of Genre and often stereotyped or misunderstood. Marginalized, degraded, parodied and
left to the dust-bin of history. Yes, some of the stereotypes are not-true, some are false, some are exaggerated.
The first thing is to mention the film of more recent decades "Pulp Fiction" - while it certainly got some classics re-printed
and choked the internet search engines to the chagrin of collectors it is both Pulp and not pulp. It was a wonderful move, I
mean only praise for it and no it did not inspire my love of Pulp style fiction, but it was more closer to "Noir" than a pulp
story and had the modern trope of the "Bad Guys" being the "Protagonist" of the story. Having said that it did capture the
overall feel of much pulp, but again a sliver of a wider genre.
The second issue is that Pulp is sexist and racist. Wrong but right but wrong.
Pulp as the genre emerged was 1920s to 1950s with the main part being 30s to 40s range. That was a time of very traditional
gender roles, strong racial divides and accepted racist views and extreme Xenophobia and/or Nationalism. Thus a character
who was racist/sexist by today's standards could still be the hero that "saves the day" A non-white character was often the
villain from a simple thug to an evil foreign mastermind. Women were usually the Damsel in Distress, the prize or goal, the
innocent Rich Man's Daughter to save from the Horror-Chamber of the Mad Prussian Fiend! When they did not accept the
gender roles they would become antagonist - the "Femme Fatale" spy woman, the exotic but treacherous daughter of the Evil
Oriental Crime boss...
Well, that is the stereotype and yes you can find as such. But it also was quite forward thinking for the times..... Yes, pulp
Note the "Penny Dreadful" era the modern "Pulp" had replaced...? The open racism, elitism, etc. in that genre - the surviving
aspects had by then matured into the snooty "Slick" genre made Pulp at its worst seem as liberal as the "Hippies" to come
Yes, the Pulp Genre was progressive - even when the heroes smoked, smacked hysterical ladies, fought scary oriental style
villains they often snuck in messages for things that would change in decades to come. Also writers were sometimes women
and non-white people, under Anglicized, Masculine names - the editors didn't care because they always needed new and GOOD
stories to print. A good writer is hard to come by - even when its an age where if you admit it's a woman writer people
will NOT read the story and a non-white writer there might be people throwing rocks and firebombs in the office. NOT
My favorite example of this is Margaret Brundage. She was a single Mexican woman, abandoned by her husband with some
young daughters. I'm sure an "Illegal immigrant"/"undocumented Worker" by today's standards. While certainly the lucrative
(sarcasm) careers of Maid, Seamstress called they didn't quite pay enough for her needs and she was college educated and a
good painter. So she went to the Slicks having a skill level that should have made her the principal illustrator of
Tarzan/Barsoom stories. Yes, Edgar Rice Burroughs and his wonderful world was "Slick" territory. Fancy magazines. Beneath
the contempt of the now successful ERB.
But this isn't about him, rather his publishers when Mrs. Brundage came to their doors.
They spat in her face shouting stuff - well I don't want to repeat the obvious...
So she went to other publishers, eventually finding Weird Tales. They welcomed her with open arms and for quite a while she
illustrated all those lurid covers of damsels bound, menaced by skull-faced sorcerers and hooded robed secret society cultists,
of Conan saving a damsel from a snake, etc. They paid her, even when writers complained their fees never arrived and the
editor was eating canned tomatoes (the Ramen of the day) from a can cooked with a small burner on his desk. None of them
cared her race, nationality, color of skin - she painted good, was willing to do sexy/damsel in distress, they paid her good.
Content of Character over Color of Skin. Literally decades ahead of its time.
Now some "Historical Revisionists" try to de-bunk this last part - well the same people say the "Burning Times" didn't have as
many tortures and deaths because there is no good 'record' of that (rright, they keep records of something like that 100% in
more 'modern' times much less 'medieval') - or that the "Irish need not apply" signs were positive and the Potato Famine didn't
kill as many - and as long as they don't try to de-bunk a certain event in WW2 they get away with their Cartman-esque
bully tactics. Let's just say they are lucky this is not a "Pulp" story or I'd clobber them. Let them keep shouting and
whining till they piss of someone without something better to do... This is a real world with dark-net, bit-coin and all sorts
of secret, anonymous services someone they piss off might hire... No, out of fear of the law not saying I'd do such a thing
or ask my readers to do so. No. don't. Stop... IMO such scum aren't worth the Bitcoin to have them killed slowly in a Red-
room. But let's move on...
So I've covered how Pulp was progressive for its time and the "Sexist/Racist" stuff while indeed it reflected its time - as if
today's world no matter if this is read tomorrow or in 40 years won't have such issues of the day. And before that how a
film (which I LOVE) did not encapsulate the entire genre. What's next in the misinformation?
Perhaps "It was cheap mass appealing lowbrow fiction, barely worth the PULP - a grade above TOILET PAPER it was PRINTED
on!" - that Zombie attack....? Paraphrasing Bill Maher - "Zombie Lie" where something is used despite being clearly proven
false again and again and again like a Zombie/horror movie thing that keeps rising for the sequel....
Well, YEAH, and is there a problem with that? I'd hate to live in a world where EVERY bit of literature had to be the
highest level of language, thought, intellect... Maybe we'd have to take English and history and science to begin to
understand anything? I'm a bit learned but it'd put it way above my level. Or we'd have not progressed since Ancient Greece
and Rome, no one else having an ear on what "The Gods" would say so no literature - get rid of that Bard with his honky
hick appealing plays about Midsummer, Star-Crossed lovers and some murderous King...?
Also many pulps were written in a "Cinematic" style - describing one scene after another after another - with hopes they'd be
turned into one of those new fangled fancy plays called a "Movie". Some even advertised this on the covers, the "Spicy/Speed"
mystery brand for example. Others like Doc Savage, the Shadow certainly used that style, a rolling adventure and only the
author knew the plot and how it would unfurl at the end with all the crazy twists and turns. It might not be something
someone trained in some kind of 'classic' literature might like, but it worked. TV and changing times diminished it, or rather
absorbed it largely.
Then - as the term "Literature" - it is time that awards that. Most of the "Classics" you are forced to read in school and
avoid learning using "Study Notes" or forget promptly in defiance...? They started out as "Penny Dreadfuls" and other
"Lowbrow" literature of the time. Even the Bard was for 'The people" and it was almost scandalous when nobility especially
the Queen would visit.
Finally, of all the "Zombie Lies" (again, thank you Maher) on Pulp the one I hate the most is "Their time is past"... Best
summed up in an 80s-90s animation with an ecologist message where one kid says "Why you reading those Detective books, they
are like 50 years old!?" - and he goes "They are new to me..."
So - has the time for Pulp past?
Let's imagine the time...
There has been a long, devastating war and another looms on the horizon. Or there is always war, always a skirmish. Some
say big companies and evil elite individuals start wars deliberately to sell weapons to both sides. Politics is corrupt with a
corrupt media pulling the classic "Divide and Conquer" tactic of getting people fighting each other with different "Sides"
that exaggerate current political opinions and twist them. Idealists shout and rave and some go to violence, as do
marginalized people, but they only break stuff and do nothing. Lots of people are broke and fear of that lets many employers
be assholes even to hard working people who don't deserve it. There's lots of crime and corruption and it seems the Cops only
care when YOU jaywalk, speed or haven't mowed your grass recently. Sometimes it seems the world might just end...
Sound like the 10s, the 30s, the 40s, parts of the 50s, the 60s and into the 70s, a bit into the 80s then definitely the 00s
If the time for "Pulp" has ever past, it'll come again right durn quick!
My issue is that there is too much "The time for pulp is past" when other genres are allowed to wax and wane as the markets
let them while "Pulp" is treated like a dirty word. I've heard of writers actually suing others in court for calling their
style "Pulpy" fearing it would hurt their careers with publishers doing their best to extinguish pulp save the foundationals
they still made money off reprinting.
So, for all this hot air - or hot virtual ink - what IS Pulp!?
It's stories. Fun stories mostly of daring adventure - often set in the real world though sometimes a far off fantasy that
strangely reflects it in some way. About heroes fighting evil, investigators uncovering mystery, of the mysterious world
interacting with the real world. It is the adventure part of science fiction touching reality, the gritty part of fantasy
where it brushes with the edge of history and the real world slightly exaggerated. It is indeed the fears and desires and
expectations of today through a strange yet familiar lens. And it can be campy, heroic, dark, noir, gritty, bleak, nasty and
also plain FUN.
Pulp is a literature for all people all time. Some of it is drek, some of it not so good, some of it an acquired taste. And
some classic so that indeed someone will go "hey, why you readin that - it's 50, 100 years old?" and hopefully the person
reading some ancient detective story or dare I dream one of mine in the future will go "They are new to me..."